How to Diagnose Cervical Disc Herniation
Consult your doctor immediately upon first experiencing pain or change in sensation in the neck (cervical spine). Your physician will facilitate thorough and complete medical background checks to understand your symptoms and assess any prior trauma or conditions before determining if any of your daily activities are causing your symptoms. Next, your doctor will perform a physical exam to assess the source, location and severity of the pain associated with disc herniation. Because symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary from person to person, your attending physician may order one or more diagnostic imaging procedures such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), X-rays, myelograms, and CT-scans to obtain more detailed representation of your spine and accurately confirm a diagnosis. Your doctor may also require other nerve stimulating diagnostics to determine possible nerve damage.
Conservative, non-surgical treatment is the first step in resolving disc herniation. Treatment may include physical therapy, monitored exercise routines, massage, rest, hydrotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and pain management. With ongoing pain management, your doctor may prescribe pain medications such as analgesics, epidural injections, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling and irritation caused by the herniating disc material.
Over 95 percent of people with herniated disc-related arm pain improve and can perform normal daily activities within approximately six weeks. However, if your symptoms worsen or fail to respond to non-surgical treatment, your physician may recommend surgery.
Home Management and Non-Surgical Intervention
Most of the time, the prescribed rest period can alleviate the pain associated with herniated discs within a couple of days, and may completely resolve the pain in four to six weeks. After resting, it is very important to begin performing light activities to prevent muscle contractures, weakness and joint stiffness. Your doctor may suggest electrical stimulation, bracing, traction and thermal packs to relieve any muscle spasms, pain and inflammation you may experience.
In most cases, your attending physician may refer you to other healthcare professionals, usually physical therapists, in order to provide specialized health education for home management. The physical therapist will typically provide exercise routines and other self-care programs to meet your changing needs. It is important to have regular follow-up visits with your therapist or medical specialist to ensure safety and continuity of care.